I woke up on Monday morning and declared “I am not going to drink wine all week!” I declared this statement to myself with great conviction and I meant it.
Fast forward to later that afternoon and my thinking went to… if I email Catherine to go for just one glass of wine and she says no, then I was right to not drink wine all week. Catherine said yes. It really is all her fault.
I thought if the universe is telling me I should drink wine then a wine bar is the place I need to go to. Bin 26 Enoteca in Beacon Hill popped into my head as I hadn’t been there in years and it was walking distance from my office.
I took the short walk across the pretty Boston Gardens to Charles Street, the main street that runs through the affluent Beacon Hill area. The street is lined with lots of boutique shops, antique markets and stores, little restaurants and delightful cafes. A lovely walk on a nice day.
I arrived first at Bin 26 and apart from two diners at the small square bar there was no-one else in the restaurant. I was greeted by the host and told I could pick any table. I chose a little table close to the wall right in the middle of the front part of the restaurant.
As you walk in there is a large cork wall coat rack. Walking past it you could not help but touch it. The restaurant holds about 70 people in cozy, contemporary surroundings. Floor to ceiling wine racks break up some of the seating, which adds a nice touch to this inviting restaurant and of course screams “wine bar.” The bar is surrounded by about 12 high chairs that look towards a huge wall of wines. Wine everywhere, my kind of place. The bathrooms are intriguing. As you look up the ceiling is covered with empty bottles of wine hanging down with the opening looking towards you. You almost feel like they are going to fall out of the ceiling.
Catherine arrived and it was time to look at the wine list. A loose-leaf book with about 30 pages of wines. For the large selection of wines by the glass they offer 100ml tasting size, a 250ml carafe and a 500ml carafe. They are a bit pricey at an average of $9 just for a tasting size, but I love the idea of being able to try small amounts of different wines. I ordered a 100ml taste of the Erbaluce, Ferrando ‘La Torrazza’, Caluso, IT ’08. Spot on first time – I loved this wine. Fresh, crisp, a hint of citrus, delicious. I did plan on trying a couple of different wines but ended up sticking with the Erbaluce throughout the night. Catherine on the other hand had a number of sips of different red wines until she found one to her liking. The waitstaff seemed very happy to oblige her in this (free) tasting. It was nice that they were as keen on her satisfaction as she was. She ultimately settled on the Malbec, Clos La Coutale, Cahors, FR ’08.
Bin 26 is currently celebrating its fifth anniversary so they had a number of first course dishes that were $5 each. We decided on the Saffron Risotto Balls and Whipped Ricotta Peppers Agro Dolce & Pancetta Bruschetta.
The Saffron Balls looked perfect in presentation. A lovely light golden color and soft to cut into but sadly they were just nice, not spectacular at all. They were really just cheesy rice lightly fried but with not much saffron flavor, if any. I think a little more saffron and definitely some seasoning would have made these really good and not just okay.
The Bruschetta was fresh and tasty with small strips of pancetta that added a subtle salty taste to the creamy flavor of the ricotta atop crispy toasted French bread. I might have to replicate this dish at home.
In between ordering our first course and thinking about the second, our waiter at the start of the evening seemed to just disappear and we were left not having any idea who to ask for service. I called over the host, we talked to the barman, we asked another waiter – it was all very odd. Finally, someone came to serve us so we asked what happened. She just said “oh yeah, he finished his shift.” It didn’t spoil our evening but we thought that it would have been nice to know as we had been talking about the wine and menu options with the waiter that left. Our second waiter was very attentive and service oriented so it did make up for our initial waiter disappearance.
For our entrees we both settled on menu description appealing pasta dishes. After chatting with the waiter and inevitably telling her to make the decision for me, I (she) opted for the Cocoa Tagliatelle with Porcini Mushroom Ragu scented with Nepitella and Catherine picked the Pappardelle with Pork Ragu, Peas and Ricotta Cheese.
My dish had an amazing aroma. It was hard not to just dig in like an old Italian fisherman starved after a week at sea and wolf it down. The taste was rich, flavorful and wonderful. I was a little skeptical of the cocoa pasta but it worked quite well and gave a mild bitter taste to the perfectly cooked tagliatelle. The mushroom Ragu was lovely and not to heavy. All in all, I was very happy with my choice.
Catherine enjoyed her dish and said it was lovely but she is going to order what I had next time.
As we dined the restaurant had slowly filled up with lots of walk-ins off Charles Street, which added a hum of chatter to this quiet Monday evening. We felt comfortable raising our voices, laughing with the waitstaff and generally enjoying our impromptu evening.
Our waiter brought over the dessert menu but we were both too full for a big dessert so we made a quick decision on the Biscotti – I do love Biscotti. To give the waiter her due, she did warn me that they were hard and might need dunking in milk or tea. I honestly didn’t think they could be that hard, I was wrong. I swear I nearly broke my front teeth trying to bite into it. Catherine was sensible and did order some hot tea, which definitely helped soften the Biscotti. I did not order a warm beverage as I wanted to enjoy the last of my wine, so beyond the crumbs that were left in my mouth after me nearly breaking my teeth, I didn’t eat the Biscotti. Catherine did eat both mine and hers and said they were really quite good with just a nice hint of citrus.
Our evening ended but not before we spent about five minutes touching the cork wall coat hanger. You have to see it; it has a very touchable appeal to it. It is like one of those paintings at a gallery that says “do not touch” but you are allowed to touch the cork wall coat hanger so you must.